Big-Name NFL Players Who Could Retire During the 2020 Offseason
We know quarterback Drew Brees and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will continue their NFL careers. Fortunately for them, they're able to make that decision, but other veterans may not have any choice but to hang up the cleats.
Brees and Fitzgerald can still perform at a high level, so their respective teams wanted them back for the 2020 season. Running back Frank Gore's production tapered off at the end of the 2019 term, but he still logged 166 carries for 599 yards and two touchdowns for the Buffalo Bills while starting in half of the regular-season games.
Gore is angling for a second stint with the Miami Dolphins, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.
"I would love if he would bring me back," Gore said in reference to Dolphins general manager Chris Grier.
Beyond a second run in Miami, Gore was clear in his intentions, saying, "I want to play."
While Gore may generate interest because of his steady output and desire to keep going, we'll take a look at players who may have to consider retirement because of injuries or lack of production in the latter stages of their careers.
Some of the veterans listed had previously decided to call it a career before eventually coming out of retirement, but their comebacks could be short-lived.
QB Josh McCown
In 17 seasons, Josh McCown has suited up for eight teams, but he experienced playoff action for the first time last year with the Philadelphia Eagles. The veteran signal-caller completed 18 of 24 pass attempts for 174 yards in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Even though McCown's first taste of playoff football may entice him to return for another season, he's not going to experience that opportunity in Philadelphia if starting quarterback Carson Wentz stays healthy.
In 2020, McCown could hold the backup role behind Wentz or transition to a new position within the organization. According to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Eagles have considered adding the 40-year-old to the coaching staff.
"The Eagles discussed with quarterback Josh McCown the idea of returning to the team in a coaching role, possibly as offensive coordinator, during his exit interviews, NFL sources told The Inquirer," McLane reported.
With McCown's wealth of experience, he could seamlessly shift to the sidelines and contribute to a title contender as a play-caller or position coach. Keep in mind, McCown briefly retired and accepted an analyst job at ESPN in June 2019. He then signed a one-year deal with the Eagles after backups Nate Sudfeld (broken wrist) and Cody Kessler (concussion) suffered injuries.
As an unrestricted free agent, McCown will likely have the option to coach or resume his media career.
RB Marshawn Lynch
Late in the second half of the 2019 season, the Seattle Seahawks lost running backs Rashaad Penny (torn ACL), Chris Carson (fractured hip) and C.J. Prosise (broken arm) to season-ending injuries, opening the door for Marshawn Lynch to make a return.
Still in good physical shape, Lynch signed a one-year deal with the Seahawks on December 23. He suited up for the season finale against the San Francisco 49ers, logging 12 carries for 34 yards and a touchdown. The 33-year-old then ran the ball 18 times for 33 yards and three scores in two playoff contests.
With a full offseason to prepare, Lynch could look closer to the Beast Mode of years past, but the Seahawks' unfortunate circumstances are likely what pulled him out of retirement. Before 2019, he spent six seasons with the club and returned to a familiar face in head coach Pete Carroll.
But prior to his unexpected return, Lynch hadn't publicly indicated a strong desire to continue his NFL career after a two-year stint with the then-Oakland Raiders. In 2018, he played six games but suffered a groin injury that sidelined him for the final two months of the campaign. Not to mention, he had previously retired for the duration of the 2016 season before joining the Raiders so he could play in his hometown before the team officially moved to Las Vegas.
The Seahawks will move forward with Carson and Penny in the backfield, which means Lynch can enjoy the retired life (again).
WR Quincy Enunwa
Quincy Enunwa is in a delicate situation because his decision to retire will probably be tied to health reasons. He sat out the entire 2017 season and missed all but one game this past year because of neck injuries. In December, doctors gave him a grim career outlook, per Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post.
"Enunwa also revealed doctors told him there is just a 50 percent chance he resumes his NFL career after suffering a second serious neck injury in a three-year span," Dunleavy wrote.
At the end of the 2018 campaign, the Jets signed Enunwa to a four-year, $36 million extension. After a solid 2016 season in which he recorded 58 catches for 857 yards and four touchdowns, he's been unable to find his footing in the offense because of injuries and inefficiency with catch rates below 56 percent since he entered the league in 2014.
The Jets' punitive measures may be water under the bridge, but Enunwa still has a major hurdle to clear before he's back on the field again. Generally, neck injuries are handled with extreme caution. If the 27-year-old wideout doesn't respond well to rehab, his career could be over.
C Ryan Kalil
Ryan Kalil briefly retired after the 2018 season, but he saw an opportunity to step into a starting role with the New York Jets on a one-year deal. Unfortunately for him, his return didn't pan out in a favorable fashion.
Early on, Kalil struggled with his blocking assignments at the pivot, and head coach Adam Gase didn't mince words about the 34-year-old two weeks into the season, per Connor Hughes of The Athletic.
"We're probably aways from where he wants to be," Gase said.
Kalil made incremental improvements, but he suffered shoulder and knee injuries that eventually derailed his comeback bid, and Jonotthan Harrison took over the starting job.
Although Kalil allowed only two sacks, per STATs (via the Washington Post), the Jets didn't receive a good return on their $8.4 million investment.
Earlier this week, Gang Green came to terms with center Connor McGovern on a three-year, $27 million contract, per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, which likely shuts the door on Kalil's tenure in New York.
Kalil can transition back to life after football knowing he tried to revive his career, but the move just didn't work out. He'd end this chapter as a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro.
DT Damon Harrison
Damon Harrison played 15 games with the Detroit Lions during the 2019 season, logging 49 tackles, three for loss, two sacks and three pass breakups. Following a Week 17 loss to the Green Bay Packers, Kyle Meinke of MLive caught up with the defensive tackle in an emotional moment.
"I've given everything I have to every team I've played for," Harrison said. "I don't feel bad if [retirement is] the decision. I got a lot of thinking to do this offseason, I'm going to seek some different options. ... But if I can't be that guy I want to be, then I got to hang it up."
In February, the Lions released Harrison, whom they acquired from the New York Giants before the 2018 trade deadline. The 31-year-old had a short but impactful stint in Detroit, recording 5.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss in 25 contests.
Per Meinke, Harrison said his mind "still thinks he can do it, but his body is saying no."
Since Harrison broke into the New York Jets' starting lineup in 2013, he's missed just one contest—Week 13 this past season because of a knee injury. The eight-year veteran even played 17 games during the 2018 campaign because of the timing of the trade between the Giants and Lions.
Harrison's decision regarding his future may well hinge upon offers on the open market.
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had a long career that reached an endpoint with the then-Oakland Raiders back in 2018. Early in the season, he tweaked his hamstring and played sparingly, logging just 147 defensive snaps in seven outings. He retired halfway through the campaign, but that transition didn't last long.
Last March, Rodgers-Cromartie signed a one-year deal with the Washington Redskins. He appeared in two games, starting in one, for 62 defensive snaps before the Redskins placed him on injured reserve with a torn ankle ligament.
In an interview with Larry Michael on Redskins Nation, Rodgers-Cromartie seemed to miss the locker room scene and the game itself, which fueled his comeback.
"Spending those first few months on the couch sitting around and watching football [was hard]. Just missing it, really just missing the team camaraderie," he said.
Nonetheless, as he's aged, Rodgers-Cromartie's snaps have trended in the wrong direction. His last campaign ended prematurely due to injury, and turning 34 years old in April, he's unlikely to have many suitors on the open market.
Rodgers-Cromartie hasn't talked about going back into retirement yet, but he may be forced into that option in the coming weeks. Since his 2008 rookie year, the two-time Pro Bowler has 30 interceptions and 146 pass breakups, which ranks seventh and third, respectively, in that span.
CB Tramon Williams
Tramon Williams' NFL career has come full circle. In 2007, he earned a roster spot with the Green Bay Packers in his second year out of Louisiana Tech. After eight seasons with the team, the Pro Bowl cornerback spent two years in Cleveland and one as a member of the Arizona Cardinals before returning to the Packers.
In 2018, Williams signed a two-year deal with the Packers and lined up all over the field, defending the perimeter, slot and deep middle and helping out in the box. He also spent a lot of time inside at cornerback this past season.
At 36 years old, Williams performed at a solid level, registering 39 tackles, eight pass breakups and two interceptions.
Last offseason, the Packers revamped their secondary, adding safeties Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage. Cornerbacks Kevin King and Jaire Alexander had strong performances in 2019, logging a combined seven interceptions and 32 pass breakups. Josh Jackson, a 2018 second-rounder, took a statistical step back from his rookie year, but that was because of his light workload; he played just 10 percent of defensive snaps.
The Packers have starting-caliber talent in the secondary with depth at cornerback if Jackson can take on a bigger role in 2020. Yet, Williams is open to a return, per ESPN Wisconsin's Wilde & Tausch (h/t Jason Wilde):
"Asked during a recent interview on ESPN Wisconsin's Wilde & Tausch whether it was fair to say he'd play another season if he could do so with the Packers, but that he might retire if the Packers don't want him back, Williams chuckled and replied, 'That's a great summary. I like it.'"
Williams seems content with walking away if the Packers don't re-sign him this offseason. Despite only one Pro Bowl invite in 13 seasons, he's been a solid coverage defender, notching 152 pass breakups and 34 interceptions for his career.
K Adam Vinatieri
In terms of kicking percentages, Adam Vinatieri had the worst season of his career in 2019, converting on 68.0 and 78.6 percent of field goals and extra-point attempts, respectively.
On top of that, he finished the campaign on the sideline because of a knee injury, which required surgery, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. Chase McLaughlin finished the year as the Indianapolis Colts' starting kicker, splitting the uprights on five out of six field goals and going 11-of-11 on extra-point attempts.
General manager Chris Ballard has yet to commit to re-signing Vinatieri, per ESPN's Mike Wells, saying, "We'll let him rehab his knee and see where he's at physically."
Colts owner Jim Irsay doesn't seem sure about Vinatieri's future with the team either, but he's deferring to head coach Frank Reich and Ballard on the decision, per Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star.
"I don't know. I know he's rehabbing that knee and it's something that Chris and Frank will talk about and give their opinions to me," Irsay said.
At 47 years old, coming off his worst season as well as knee surgery, Vinatieri projects as a strong candidate to retire. If he's not back in Indianapolis, the open market isn't buzzing for kickers at his age.
With that said, Vinatieri holds several all-time records, including most points scored (2,673) and field goals made (599). In a few years, he'll be a surefire Hall of Famer.